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Chas "Chuck" Simmons
Mr Hagen was the cottage father at Roosevelt.. seemed like he drove a
black '57 Ford that looked like a cop car.. he was just as you described
him.. he had seen just about every kind of kid there is/was and completely
untrusting of most guys..
I will admit that he started seeing I was sincere in my efforts to make
good and started to 'trust' me on a limited basis..
When I arrived my 2nd time, just about everybody, staff and guys, thought I
was going to be a bad ass and stay in trouble.. Mr Meyers was an
exception.. he became the principle over the school part.. red headed
guy... Mr Hagen did not trust me then.. but I worked and did good,
eventually being the 'supervisor' over cleaning up and never did puke on
anybody.. I also made ACE... I won a scholarship to Chipola Jr College from
FSB.. Mr Meyers helped.. later on Pat Currey, worked with Mr Meyers as
monitor, also won a scholarship and was my roommate.. we are in touch with
Which brings up another name, Mr Curry was the psychologist you are talking
about.. Mr McLean also was a psychometrist and gave tests.. they worked
together... I was assigned to help Mr McLean.. Curry was bald, stockier,
shorter, and smoked a pipe.. always talked about sex with the guys... Mr
McLean on the other hand wasn't that talkative/social but after I got to
know him, was friendly and a pretty nice guy..
My first time at FSB-FIS, I worked at the Industrial Arts shop with Mr
Coincidence.. I have my Vietnam veterans reunion at the Best Western at Ft
Walton Beach.. I've been going since about '96 at least once a year and
more recently, twice a year.. the next one is scheduled for 1st weekend in
May.. we will have to get together.. check the 174th link in my signature
block below.. you'll fit right in..
About the White House.. one thing that has held me up about writing about
my experiences is it wasn't that traumatic for me... I was brutalized but
not traumatized.. After reading about y'all's experiences, I've set back
and wondered and meditated about why I was traumatized.. OR did I
repress/suppress all those feelings.. the best I can say right now is I
took it in stride and was not traumatized.. I could have been in
post-trauma from my dad dying a couple of years earliey b/c that was
really, really traumatizing for me.. but the spankings were sort of like an
initiation rite to me.. and yeah, the first time I had about a one inch rip
in my left butt cheek..
I'm planning on staying in touch.. notice I'm CC'ing everybody I've got an
email address for.. I also know Bill Haynes that works for the Ala Dept of
Corrections over the Communication Division.. I was senior research analyst
for them for 22 years plus was correctional counselor at a work release
center for my first 5 years.. I got recruited into doing research and a had
a great career...
I wonder how we can put all our experiences together where it will help
Roger in his efforts.. he was way too young to be spanked/beaten like
that.. I was 14+ and a bigger boy then he was..
please get back to me,
Chas "Chuck" Simmons
I hope next year we will be able to have a small reunion and a commemoration for those under the crosses..
for one, I’d like to pay my respects to those whose remains are interred at FSB..
the forgotten aren’t forgotten..
be a good excuse to get together if we need an excuse..
Do they have records for the graveyard?..
I know the Alabama prison system didn’t keep records of who was buried where.. they kept Time Books on each inmate, his crime and time..
just about every state had their system of keeping records.
The Time Books kept a record of an inmate's release whether the release was at end of sentence/time, by escape, by death, or transfer thru court adjudication, etc
and there are records of each inmates according to Bryant and Stu...
It shouldn’t be too difficult to look thru FSB’s archives and find out which guys were released by escape and never returned…
the number would be relatively small and easier to look into to see whether they reappeared at Appalachee or Raiford.... those not appearing there may be the ones to look further into..
Straley, were you going to upload that email narrative containing my experiences with the White House to the FSB-Marianna site?
I had included a consent agreement with it..
I haven't checked your site in several days tho... I hope you have., ;) lol!
It bothered me when I first heard of Roger's traumatic experiences at FSB with Dr Curry and also down at the White House..
my experiences were no where close to being like his was.
now understand I had a brutal experience,
just like anybody would getting beat like that..
In particular they should not have beat kids…
I don’t care how snot nosed a kid can get, after a point a whipping isn’t a whipping once it becomes a beating..
then it’s a physical assault and battery..
there was some young, young kid, nine or under that was there for throwing rocks at cars passing by their dirt road.. he was assigned to #1.. IMHO he shouldn’t have been at FSB for that ‘offense’. I don’t remember him getting ‘flogged’. The point is there are folks too small and too young to be beat..
Incidentally that strap was made of an old-time leather conveyer belt; made by layering a metal reinforced belt between thick layers of horsehide…
the strap was cut from the belt, a wood handle, with holes to decrease the wind resistance and create blood blisters
I heard some FSB employees discussing it over coffee at Joe's Restaurant while I was going to Chipola in Marianna..
John Meyer kept a close watch over Pat and me, and later on over Lloyd Garner, and Mark from Pensacola (his last name hasn’t came to me yet)...
Arthur Gibson had a shot at going to Chipola too but he wanted to go back to Michigan and attend college on his father’s benefits..
I had coffee lots of time with several of the FSB staff.
A couple of the assistant cottage fathers were guys working part time and also going to college at Chipola...
I was friendly and polite but wasn’t buddies with them or vice versa..
we each had our own worlds to live in and I wasn't part of theirs..
But, like I was saying.. I was brutalized but not traumatized..
and at first it bothered me that I hadn't been traumatized by the White House beatings. Several of you guys were traumatized and brutalized..
Reason being I wasn’t traumatized was because I was already in shock, a post-trauma from my dad's death and sudden aloneness and responsibility..
I was pretty pissed off at the world, enraged at my dad, and at God and Christ..
I cussed them and raged against them for most of my early adulthood...
I look back nowadays and I see that Christ was there for me all thru FSB...
He loved me even when I didn’t love him. I didn't see it then...
there wasn't anything outside of me that could hurt me more than I was already hurting...
but now I see the Holy Spirit was there with me every step I took..
So I understand now why I wasn't traumatized by being beat at the White House.. brutalized? yes!! Traumatized? Nope..
I had a younger big brother that used to swap licks with each other..
man he could pack his lunch in a punch.. dang he could hit.. and cut with his knuckles.
I held my own tho and gave him as good or better than I got.
All my brothers had a lot of anger similar to me..
Flogging was supposed to be by procedure, officially..
Unofficially it got out of control on occasions..
according to what I understand, when FSB hired a male employee, they were invited into a group of people authorized to administer flogging..
within that group was a certain comradeship and competition to being the best flogger..
they took pride in busting a butt in under ten strokes sort of thing..
Hatton, Hagen, and Dixon were rumored to be the ‘best’..
some cottage fathers declined to join the group and were not part of the official group..
Several assistant cottage fathers got into the inner group rivalry..
Mr Tidwell with his one arm couldn’t get the balance/leverage to be in the top group but he was in the group right below.. he wasn’t a slouch by any means.. Mr Zych was another that wanted to be top ranked but with one leg, he couldn't..
they could turn the paddle at certain angles and it became rigid-like and ‘slice’ and pound the glutes..
They would have one guy to whip,
one guy to witness and watch the inmate on the cot and any inmate previous been beat..
and then they needed a guy to stay with the inmates waiting to be whipped..
it would take a minimum of three staff members to escort a group of boys to the White House.
seems like when they would take four guys at a time to the White House they would also have four staff members..
Anyway, thanks again Roger for the photo..
in peace ;)
The Chazzmanian Devil ;-)
God loves me.. oh yes, even me.. and even you too!!
come visit my little toe-hold in cyberspace
Visit my photo/art portfolio!
Read my personal history, w/empasis on military bio:
My Brotherhood of Children
I am a White House Boy Survivor
By Chas H. “Chuck” Simmons, the Chazzman
I invite the reader to first look over a website to familiarize themselves with the White House Boys: http://www.thewhitehouseboys.com/
I was more of a good boy that started hanging with the wrong crowd that dabbled in delinquent behavior. While I wasn’t a ‘goody two shoes’, I wasn’t a ‘bad’ boy either.
I was having quite a bit of difficulty and trouble growing up and didn’t have the maturity to make the correct decisions for myself.
I was on probation when I first got sent to the Florida Industrial School for Boys during October 1956. Me and three other boys got in trouble together and had spent a month in the local DeSoto County jail. During this timeframe, DeSoto’s jail had no juvenile detention facilities and to segregate us from the adult males, we were locked up together in a cell usually used for females.
After about three weeks in the county jail, two of my rap partners, Joey Howard and Gene Barber took the trip to FIS about a week earlier than me and my other buddy Maxie Kersey. Joey was assigned to #4 cottage and Gene to #3 cottage. When we arrived, Maxie was assigned to #7 cottage and I got #5 cottage.
From 1956 to 1959, FIS was a campus style reformatory. FIS also went through a name change to FSB, the Florida School for Boys at Marianna. Also were a new FSB at Okeechobee for boys and a FSG at Ocala for girls.
FSB at Marianna was racially segregated. On the white #1-side of FSB the campus style facility consisted of 9 cottages with open grounds. The colored side appeared to have newer construction but on the campus style as well.
FSB was the entry level into being a convict and a criminal, OR settle down into being a hard-working law abiding citizen. The staff liked to refer to us guys as ‘residents’ but we all knew we in the grade school of a criminal life, of becoming a career criminal. We were locked up and were inmates regardless of the nicer tag of being a resident. We were going to be young convicts unless we could get our stuff together. I figured we were all just guys, living what life was dealing us.
The school was attractive. There were no fences. An inmate could take off anytime they thought they could get away with running. I could see no sense in running just to go home where the cops would be waiting, or to run off with no real plan of escaping but just to break the monotony for the adrenaline rush.
The best I can figure, the white inmates (us residents) were classified by age, size, and crime severity to the extent 9 cottages permitted grouping into some groups and segregating from other groups. Later on FSB added #10, #11, and #12 cottages and this allowed the FSB administration to classify special needs inmates with mental and emotional problems to specialized treatments. This also allowed vulnerable inmates to be grouped together for easier victimization.
I was a backwoods county boy from a poverty stricken family. Our home was at the end of a dirt road, had no electricity or running water, had a two-hole outhouse, used kerosene lamps at night, a wood stove for cooking, and ice block refrigeration. I was naïve in so many ways while so very street wise in other ways. I grew up playing on a creek, in the woods or a bayhead, wading in ponds and swamps, or playing in cane patches or orange groves.
Arcadia at the time had a population of about 3,400 people but I’d been to Miami and a few other larger cities to know I was from a small podunk town.
I knew I was going to be the new guy at FIS. I knew I’d be watched and tested. Not only by Mr Daffin, the Wilson cottage father and the rest of the staff, but also by the other inmates. I realized I was going to be checked and it was okay to me that I was the new guy.
I had it made as far as comparing the living conditions of the old home place with FSB. I had more clothes than I’d ever had, good brogans and socks, 2 white shirts and 2 work shirts, and 4 dungarees. Even had underwear, shorts and shirts.
Wilson Cottage also had running water, indoor toilets, a pretty good bed and springs with clean sheets, hot water showers, and a TV. At the mess hall was plenty of grits and tomato gravy, or pinto beans with rice and cornbread, or a piece of fried rabbit or chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and all the ice kool aid or tea I could drink.
Several inmates tested me on several occasions, and each testing was on a greater threat level. I wasn’t a bully or overly aggressive but I had a cold streak and enjoyed hooking it out – hurting somebody like I was hurting inside. I prevailed throughout the tests and was proven to be an okay standup guy.
I learned how to play the guitar. My first night at Wilson I walked into the rec room and on a side table was a beautiful blond flat top six string Kay guitar. I knew better than to pick it up so instead I lightly plucked the little and big E strings, making it ring. No sooner had the sound vibrated, than a guy asked me if I played. I told him no but I wanted to learn how. He asked was it my guitar and I told him it wasn’t that’s why I hadn’t picked it up. To keep this story short, that was my introduction to Scott Brantley, the guy who taught me to first play guitar.
I already knew how to rake leaves, sling grass, and shovel shit at the water treatment plant. The Yard Crew Supervisor Mr Lawhorn made sure we all stayed busy. I really enjoyed being able to help put up the many Christmas displays the Art Shop developed.
I was later on put in the Industrial Arts shop with Mr. Howard Hutchins and he taught me tons about mechanical drawing, how to plan projects, how to safely operate all kind of woodworking power and hand tools, how to work with all kinds of woods including how to apply various finishes on completed works. I was also taught about welding, ceramics, plastics, and some supervisory skills.
Mr Daffin, Wilson Cottage father, taught me how to make a bed with hospital corners, how to clean up our living area, how to keep a clothes locker neat, and police the yards to keep the area litter free.
I was self-taught thru the 9th and part of the way thru the 10th grade in Mr Lowery’s room. This wasn’t a sound educational background, and later on when in college, I learned most of the high school subjects while also learning on a college level. I was at a disadvantage for a long time.
I also learned the hambone, a rhythmic hand-jive slapping of the hands against the chest and leg.
“Hambone, Hambone where you been?
Been around the world and I’m gone again.
Hambone, Hambone where’s your wife?
She’s in the kitchen shooting dice.”
I also worked out with weights, the parallel bars and the still and swinging bars.
I learned how to headcount. The cottages had a courtyard in the rear of the building. Four benches were on one side of the court and backboards at the ends. There were also posts at half field for a volleyball net. In the morning and other scheduled times, we guys had to sit on a particular assigned bench and give headcount. At the morning headcount before mess hall and before work/school, Mr Daffin made announcements and took lists for sick call.
I had my troubles. I didn’t want to be at FSB. True it was materially better than home, and I had nowhere to go to, and not much to do when I got there. So I didn’t mind staying there marking X’s on a calendar but I wanted more out of life and had little or no idea of how to get there.
I learned how to drink instant coffee in a glass jar using hot water from the boiler.
At FSB during this time, an inmate was graded each week in the cottage, work, and school areas. These three grades were combined for the week’s overall rating of a 3, 4, 5, and a seldom A. It was a merit/demerit system that used rankings of ROOKIE, EXPLORER, PIONEER, PILOT, ACE, and GRUB instead of Rookie when busted back down. Within each rank, numerical grades were given each week, the average of the aforementioned cottage, work, and school areas. A new guys started out as Rookie making 3’s, with 2, 1, or 0 as demerits. With the fourth 3, a guy was promoted to Explorer where he was supposed to make 4’s and anything less demerits. Making a 0 was a whipping offense. Also certain infractions of the rules and regulations resulted in a beating like running away, fighting, etc. Certain demerits were also punishable by a beating. I think the staff called the beatings whippings and spankings, and discussed it in terms of corporal punishment.
All my beatings came from the cottage area. My first beating was for stealing, ie, having possession of someone else's Levi's. It was against the rules to lend or borrow another's clothes or personal possessions. This helped against extortion, theft, and a whole bunch of other inmate control/management scenarios. If I had of told Mr Daffin the other boy had lent me the Levi’s for going to the downtown movies, Mr Daffin would have had to give demerits to the other boy too. So I took the heat since I was going get beat anyway.
I also got beat twice for smoking tobacco (against Florida law for under 16 to smoke) around the cottage. I got along pretty good with Mr Daffin, Wilson’s Cottage father, and just about all of the guys at the cottage. However, one of the assistant cottage fathers thought (rightly) that I was sneaking around smoking and he got a couple of guys to snitch me off by telling him of my habits – how I spent my time at the cottage. He figured out when and where I could smoke and checked, and I got busted twice, and got my butt beat for it each time. I went home before he could catch me the third time...
This was during Feb/Mar of 1958. Ordinarily FSB would have busted me back to Grub but during this timeframe they kept beating me to keep me an Explorer so they could release me according to their schedule. This was because of overcrowding conditions.
Lenny Farmer (4 beatings for running, 48 licks a time) and some other guys clued me in on what to do and not do when I got beat. My first beating was the worst, mainly because it was a new experience and I didn't know about how I would be, how I'd act and react. Lenny advised me that when I was getting whipped the best thing was to tighten my buttocks as hard as I could and keep them tightened. He told me he could anticipate the paddle hitting him by the strap hitting the ceiling and/or side of wall, depending upon the spanker’s height and swing. Also advised me to listen to their pivot foot moving, pivoting as the arm swung down. Also told me to keep a tight grip on the cot’s head rail.
But I had no butt. I did the best I could with what I had.
The beatings were as everybody has asserted, very brutal. I experienced the event differently than what I've heard from the other guys.
My first beating was by Mr Dixon the mailman, Mr. Hatton was a witness and another guy stood by watching the boys waiting to be whipped. On the walk to the Whitehouse, Mr Hatton and Mr Dixon explained that I would receive the standard 16 licks, that they didn’t like doing this, and that they hoped it was my last time to the Whitehouse. Mr Dixon also let me know that he was the best spanker and he was going to give me my first and he hoped last whipping. He told me he didn’t mind spanking a boy if he thought it would help the boy, or other boys on down the road.
I wasn't traumatized like the other guys were. Yes all three beating I received were brutal to an extreme, but I viewed the beatings as a sort of an initiation, a ritual of passage. I saw the whippings as the consequence of my knowingly misbehaving and violating a rule.
I didn't bite the pillow because the next guy after me would feel my slobber and drool. And I didn't holler. It was okay to grunt but no hollering or biting the pillow. I kept my body loose and my glutes tightened tight. I was also able to zone out.
After getting up off the cot and going to the next room across the hall, I could feel the sweat, blood, and fluids seeping down my legs. I held my shorts off of the skin of my butt cheeks so the fabric wouldn't stick to the bloody body fluids leaking through the bruised and torn flesh of each butt cheek. I later saw that both of my cheeks were one big blood blister of hot, hard, bruised, oozing and slightly ripped flesh – very raw. As good as I could, I kept my shorts off my skin, because as the fluids dried it would have glued my shorts into my skin. Once it scabbed over, an inmate would have had to go to the infirmary to have their shorts soaked and removed.
Once at the cottage, I showered and treated my butt cheeks with State grease (Vaseline) until they scabbed up. Then my shorts wouldn't stick to my cheeks. I wanted to move gingerly for several days but had to act like I was doing just great.
The Whitehouse was an old ice cream factory. That is why the walls were so thick. And that is why the fan was turned on each time the Whitehouse was used, the building had no ventilation except the fan. The fan wasn’t used to hide the screams because when you screamed they just added more licks to your beating. Instead the fan was for ventilation purposes.
I later learned that the strap was supposedly made of an old-time leather conveyer belt. The early belts were made of horsehide, and to keep the belts from stretching had a mid layer of wire reinforced hide; layering a metal reinforced belt between thick layers of horsehide. The strap was cut from the conveyer belt, a wood handle attached, with holes in the strap to decrease the wind resistance and create blood blisters. I never saw the strap but I heard some FSB employees discussing it over coffee at Henry's Sweetshop, (a popular Marianna restaurant) while I was going to Chipola Junior College in Marianna.
I was brutalized but not traumatized by the beatings I received at the Whitehouse. I got beat twice by Mr Dixon and once by Mr Hatton. Mr Dixon was the best (or worst) whipper that I experienced. Mr Hatton seemed to prefer Mr Dixon whipping us inmates rather than him doing it, like he was burnt out, getting tired and old, or something. Some guys thought that Hatton was sadistic but that’s not my opinion.
At this point in my life, I think I had reached the point beyond where spanking had little or no effect on me as a deterrent. Of course I knew that Mr Dixon and several other spankers could bust me bloody in less than 10 licks. That was a scare they tried to hold over us boys according to Lenny Farmer and other inmates, that they could make it worse. And the reality is they could make the beatings worse. But once a guy was able to tune it out, or go somewhere inside his head, spankings and/or beatings didn’t work well if at all. Only a very few guys were able to achieve such a Zen state but I think Lenny was able to go insane and return. I never wanted to put it to a test tho because I might not come back.
I think the reason the beatings didn’t traumatize me (or FSB for that matter) is because I was already in trauma. I look back today and see I had been in shock for a couple of years prior to FSB, that I was post-trauma from me discovering my dad dead, and my sudden aloneness and self-responsibility. To say I was pretty pissed off at the world, enraged at my dad, and at God and Christ would be a gross understatement. I cussed them and raged against them for most of my early adulthood. In a very real way, feeling pain was a relief, it let me know I was still alive and not just a seething mass of anger. It was why getting in fights didn’t bother me because at least I could feel. It’s why I liked to laugh and have a good time as much as I was able.
And I had a lot of good times although a lot of the names and faces are vague now. I remember Gary Alexander over at the Industrial Arts shop. He was one of the smartest and most inventive people I’ve known. When the Russians put Sputnik in orbit, Gary devised a tracking system that beeped when Sputnik came over FSB. Gary also built a radio station that broadcast over FSB during the summer of 1957. Gary and I went over to the colored side of FSB to salvage Air Force materials that had been junked. Gary and I cannibalized and built arc welders, air compressors, radios, and other electronic and electrical appliances. A very smart guy, Gary was. And Mr Hutchins trusted and respected both of us, and vice versa us to him.
Tom Sizemore from Panama City also worked at Industrial Arts. He was just enjoyable to be around. I was shop foreman on my workdays; and on school days, I also took Industrial Arts for one period. I met a lot of guys thru Industrial Arts and they got to know me.
I remember movie nights in the school’s auditorium. Better, I remember Scott Brantley performing “Mean Woman Blues” for all the guys at FSB. I helped Scott get set up on stage. Beneath the stage was a storage room with various stage props and stuff.
I remember many nights just sitting around on a bench, playing guitars and singing, playing hambone or some rhythm. Night after night after night. Day after day after day.
I remember on Friday nights when I got to go on the bus downtown to watch the civilian movies. We got to sit in the balcony in the movie theater downtown Marianna. The bus would park behind the Chipola Hotel across from a diner by the railroad tracks. Us boys would line up on the sidewalk, and while waiting outside the theater, it was a great time to pick up cigarette butts for later on at FSB.
I remember nights when we played ‘Steal the Bacon’ on the courtyard and whichever team won got to eat fried rabbit on Friday nights.
I remember a guy could call out another guy on the court and Mr Daffin would hand the guys boxing gloves and let them sort out their differences. Most of us guys didn’t use this method, preferring instead of catching the guy alone somewhere and put a real hurting on him. I tried boxing under Coach Thurman but preferred street fighting. I was a dirty fighter and highly effective.
I remember eating pints of chocolate ice cream when I could afford them from the canteen.
I remember my first afternoon at FSB I had to go down to the canteen. I got my head and pubic area shaved and deloused. I was issued my state clothes and brogans. One of the barbers was Jim Fletcher from Zolfo Springs, not far from Arcadia and Bunker/Limestone/Brownsville area where I grew up. This was good fortune on my part because Fletch’s acceptance of me influenced a lot of other inmates in other cottages that the word was out that I was an okay guy.
I remember repairing chairs for the mess hall, and just about every other office at FSB. I also repaired and repainted every sign at FSB including the big sign at the Main Gate.
I also remember the first time at the mess hall. I was taken to a table of boys that were in my cottage. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a guy dip the extra place spoon with hot sauce. I sat at the empty place. There were bowls of food on the table. I knew that I was the new guy and as such would be tested until I got to be one of the older guys. I filled my plate with rice and pinto beans. A table waiter filled a plastic glass with kool aid. I pretended the spoon wasn’t hot, just a regular spoon. I ignored the looks and grins and kept eating. Altho my eyes started watering, I pulled it off.
We could take as much food as we wanted (if there was any leftovers) but we had to eat all we put on our plate. The food was nutritional and good, plenty of beans and rice, and greens and cornbread, potatoes mashed, or in chunks, fried; cold fresh milk, and just good old farm raised foods. At that time we were marched by twos to the mess hall.
The table waiter brought bowls of food and put them at the head of the table and then the food was passed around. The waiter also kept our pitcher full of kool aid, tea, or milk, depending on what day of the week it was. Usually during the week it was kool aid of some flavor.
This procedure of feeding the inmates was called the family style. Later on during the end of 57 or early 58, the mess hall went to the cafeteria style of feeding and we started using trays and going thru the serving line.
The mess hall served special reward foods to the inmates. I loved their fried rabbit and chicken. On Friday nights we had fish of some kind, even if it was canned tuna patties.
But they finally spanked me home. They didn’t want me anymore. But with a month in the county lockup plus seventeen months at FSB, I had 18 months built.
I never heard of anyone being raped, or tortured, or killed, or of staff goon squads running around at night. I heard of some guys getting the shit beat out of them at the Whitehouse but that was usually because they fought back, starting hollering, or resisting. It was my understanding that most guys just got the standard beatings of 16 licks each time, but that this could be escalated by increments of 16 licks for 32 licks and 48 licks. That’s just my awareness and understanding that may or may not be correct.
Please understand that I’m not saying that such abuses did or didn’t happen. It just wasn’t part of my FSB experience and I never heard of such.
I returned back to the home environment where I encountered my initial difficulty and stayed out for six months.
In October 1958 I arrived my second time at FSB for stealing gas. Just about everybody, both staff and inmates were judging me from my behavior during my first incarceration. They weren’t looking at me because of the pettiness of the offense, rather looking at my behavior and past attitude. Several staff members told me when I returned that they thought I wanted to be a badass guy, stay in trouble from hereon until I got sent on to Appalachee or Raiford.
I didn’t plan on giving FSB any trouble. I knew I had a propensity for violence but not for escaping. While waiting in jail for an opening at FSB, I saw the light courtesy a visit from a dear friend Caroline Page. She helped me to see a fork in the road of my life ahead of me, one led to prison and the other road led away from prison. Where I didn’t know, just away from prison.
John B. Meyer was an exception. When the school’s principal Frank Zych went to Okeechobee along with Mr Davis, Mr Meyer became the principle over the school part of FSB. Mr Meyer believed I had potential to make something of myself and helped me as much as he could as long as I was willing to work and help myself.
Some guys thought Meyer was funny in a perverted way. He did like to put his arm on a guy’s back, or around his neck, but I saw this more of a fatherly or big brother manner. He never propositioned me, even after I was a civilian going to Chipola. He was military minded and oriented, and extremely intelligent to me.
Mr. Hagen was the cottage father at Roosevelt where I was assigned. Mr. Hagen did not trust me at all but I worked and did well. I knew how to get into fights and I also knew how to avoid most fights. I had no interesting in running because I had nowhere to go. Mr Hagen eventually ‘trusted’ me enough to make me a 'supervisor' over cleaning up the commodes and urinals, later the shower room, locker room, and back hall. Eventually I was put over all the cleanup of #4 when the previous head ‘supervisor’ Deckard went home. I never did puke on anybody.
If I remember correctly Mr Hagen drove a black '57 Ford that looked like a cop car. He looked hard and mean. I can only imagine after running #4 cottage for that many years he had seen just about every kind of kid there is/was and consequently completely untrusting of any inmate. I will admit I think that he started seeing I was sincere in my efforts to make good and started to 'trust' me on a limited basis. I think he saw I could beat the system and get away from a future of being a convict.
After working as a Grub on Mr Lawhorn’s yard crew, and just before Christmas displays were being set up, I was assigned to the Guidance Center to work for Joel McLean, FSB’s psychometrist administering the Stanford Binet IQ tests, various aptitude tests, and the MMPI and Rorschach tests.
Mr McLean taught me how to operate a state-of-the-art wire tape recorder. Not tape, but wire. He also taught me how to punch cards and sort thru them with a stylus, sort of an early model computer and statistical tool. He let me read his old psychology and college textbooks. He taught me how to fence with rapiers.
I got along okay with psychologist Robert L. Currie and his secretary. He was funny in a neurotic quirky way. He smoked a pipe and seemed to always be talking about sex. I didn’t trust Currie but was polite to him. Mr McLean on the other hand wasn’t that talkative or social but I got to know him as a fairly nice guy.
One afternoon at the cottage, I got tired of looking for a quiet place to practice playing my guitar, and broke out on a Johnny Cash song, “The Boy Next Door Who Worked at the Candy Store”. At the time Johnny hadn’t committed to being a rock’n’roller or to being a country singer. I was in the rec room and a bunch of guys gathered around me clapping their hands and singing along with me. I didn’t have an encore tho.
Mr Womack asked me to join FSB’s variety club band. I remember playing and singing “Party Doll”, “Sixteen Candles”, and the Vitamin C Song (You Are My Sunshine). I remember playing at local area school assemblies and functions and also civic clubs like Civitans, Kiwanis, Elks, etc. I had some good times playing in the band.
I graduated from FSB by getting my GED.
I also made Ace. Being an Ace meant I got to go downtown Marianna and shop on Monday afternoons all by myself, catching a ride back with the mailman, Mr Dixon.
I won an all expense academic scholarship from the Florida Sheriff’s Association in June 1959 to attend Chipola Junior College even though I was only sixteen years old. Mr. Meyer had helped me prepare myself for college level work by writing papers for part-time substitute cottage fathers who were going to Chipola. Plus he did a lot of tutoring in all the subjects to build up my background. I am thankful and grateful for Mr Meyer and also Carl Stauffer of the FSA for helping me help myself. Later on Pat Curry, who worked with Mr. Meyer in the school building as the principle’s monitor and gofer, also won a scholarship and was my roommate for a while at Chipola.
I enjoyed Chipola and felt at home. I thought I was doing real well for a poor backwoods country boy that had a brush with being a criminal.
John Meyer kept a close watch over Pat and me, and later on over Lloyd Garner, and Mark Kitchens from Pensacola. Arthur Gibson had a shot at going to Chipola too but wanted to go back to Michigan and attend college on his father’s benefits instead. I had coffee lots of time with several of the FSB staff. A couple of the assistant cottage fathers were guys working part time and also going to college at Chipola. I was friendly and polite but wasn’t buddies with them or vice versa. We each had our own worlds to live in and I wasn't part of theirs.
Later on I transferred to Florida State University and flunked out after my first semester. I was just too young and too undisciplined to attend college without more maturity. But while I was in FSU I took a criminology class and our class went over to Appalachee Correctional Institute to visit the prison. I was shocked when I saw a FSB friend Roger Varnado from #5 cottage who was an inmate there when I was there. I was stunned by the reality of guys actually progressing to bigger and harder time – it could have been me.
After flunking out of FSU I found out a two year junior college degree didn’t mean much back in the business world during 1961. I also found out since I had spent 24 months at FSB, I could not enlist in any of the military services. I hit some pretty low times in my life as well as going through complete emotional devastation and a series of other mishaps and misfortunes. It would be great if I could go back and ask forgiveness from several folks I hurt during this time frame.
In 1964, I discovered I could volunteer for the draft and that is exactly what I did to escape the dead end I was at in DeSoto County. I was still a free person but knew I had to get away from my hometown environment.
I went into the US Army for eight years, getting my second honorable discharge during December 1972. Additional details of my military history are on my bio at my 174th Assault Helicopter Company Vietnam outfit’s website at http://www.174ahc.org/bio-15.htm
Taking advantage of the GI Bill, I went back to college at Jacksonville State University Alabama and graduated with a BS in Sociology in April 1975.
I had an opportunity to work with juveniles but after interning one semester, I knew I preferred to work with adults instead. I also had an opportunity to return to Florida and work with the Florida Department of Corrections but decided to stay in Alabama and work with the Alabama Department of Corrections. Alabama had more problems and I saw this as Alabama having more opportunities.
In Alabama I started my career at Alexander City Work Release Center during September 1975 as a correctional counselor where I worked for 5 years. After I got situated at the center I started conducting small research projects upon my own initiative. I used my research work for reports in graduate school at Auburn University in Montgomery.
After obtaining my masters in Criminal Justice Administration I was recruited into the Ala DOC’s Research, Monitoring, and Evaluations unit where I had a successful and rewarding career as the senior research analyst. I did research for 22 years, completing a 27-year career with the Department. I have a blog on MySpace pertaining to my career accomplishments.
I retired in Feb 2002 and live at home on Lake Martin with the wife Diane of 40 years. Our son Drew also lives with us and we have one granddaughter Kayla who lives in north Alabama. I have many photos of my family, friends, relatives, other people and places I’ve been and known at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chazzman34/collections/
I learned long ago that while I can’t change my history at FSB, I could view it in a positive manner that would be beneficial to my environment and me. And that included also me viewing myself as a poverty stricken backwoods country boy, being socially disadvantaged, and all the other dysfunctions I started with.
Before I went to FIS-FSB my first time, I remember my mother telling me to hand over my belt (I had stolen her car) and she started whaling the tar out of me. Usually I would try to outrun the belt, telling her, promising her I wouldn’t do it anymore. Well this one time, I just stood there and let her spank away at me. I didn’t try to outrun the belt. I didn’t plead. I didn’t beg. I didn’t cry. I stood there and let her dish it out to her heart’s content. She never spanked me again because she knew the spankings were no longer effective.
It seems strange that an institution with the history of flogging would have realized that at some point, whippings and beatings are ineffective as a behavioral control. My mother figured it out but FSB authorities couldn’t.
I hope in the future years that us surviving FSB alumni will be able to have reunions and increase our healing. I’d like to pay my respects to those whose remains are interred at FSB regardless of how they came to be buried there. The early reform school was horrendously brutal as was all prisons in the south during the beginning of the 1900’s. Those forgotten boys should be remembered, and not forgotten. I think it would be a good for us FSB survivors to have a brief memorial at each reunion for those guys that didn’t survive, or are have difficulty doing so.
It bothered me when I first heard of Roger Kiser's traumatic experiences at FSB with Dr Currie and also down at the Whitehouse. My experiences were nowhere close to being like his were, or some of the other guys that particularly had a rough traumatic time.
I had brutal experiences at FSB, but that was just 1956 thru 1959. Most everybody in America that had lived thru WWII and the Korean War had experienced hard and brutal times even if things were booming for some.
In particular they should not have beat kids under a certain size, or those that were retarded or simple, or those that were emotionally or psychologically impaired. I don’t care how snot nosed a kid can get, after a point a whipping isn’t a whipping once it becomes a beating. Then it becomes a physical assault and battery – it is criminal. There was some young, young kid, nine or under that was there for throwing rocks at cars passing by their dirt road and he was assigned to #1 cottage. In my humble opinion, he shouldn’t have been at FSB for that ‘offense’. I don’t remember him getting whipped but the point is there are folks too small and too young to be beat. Spanked maybe, beat no!
To the best of my understanding, whippings, and/or floggings were supposed to be by procedure an official administration of punishment – a disciplinary action. The use of flogging has a history of being cruel, barbaric, and brutal. They were meant to be! Flogging over the centuries became less severe and curtailed in many circumstances altho public floggings were popular in the territorial days of the South. In modern times, the decade old China caning incident indicates that flogging is still used.
According to what I understand, when FSB hired a male employee, the new hires were invited into a group of people officially authorized to administer flogging. Some cottage fathers declined to join the group and were not part of the group authorized officially to administer spankings. Within that group was a certain comradeship and competition of being the best flogger, the best disciplinarian. They seemed to took pride in busting a butt in less than ten strokes sort of thing, or bringing the buttocks to just a certain ‘dusting off’. They were good at what they did. Hatton, Hagen, Davis, and Dixon were rumored to be the ‘best’.
Several other cottage fathers got into the inner group rivalry. Troy Tidwell with his one arm couldn’t get the balance/leverage to be in the top group but he was in the group right below. He wasn’t a slouch by any means according to his reputation. Frank Zych was another employee that wanted to be top ranked but with one leg, he couldn't pivot and transfer his weight to the strap. They were inaccurate in their delivery of the strap and would hit a boy on his back, butt, and legs. Dixon, Hatton, Hagen, and Davis were the top whippers because they could hit accurately on the glutes and bust a butt all too quickly. They could also turn the paddle at certain angles and it became more rigid-like and ‘slice’ and pound the gluts. I remember an assistant cottage father Mr Foster who wanted to be in the ‘in’ group but never made it. Mr Paulk, another assistant cottage father (I did a term paper for him) tried spanking and after spanking one boy, decided he would not ever spank any body anymore.
Floggings were typically regulated to have one authorized employee to whip, one to witness and guard the inmate on the cot and also guard inmates previous beaten waiting until the event was over; and then they needed a third guy to guard the inmates waiting to be whipped. It would take a minimum of three staff members to escort a group of boys to the White House – officially. Seems like when they would take four guys at a time to the White House they would also have four staff members. Some guys have told of having fewer guards around when they were beat, so maybe there were other procedures they used, or unofficial beatings were described.
It is a moot question, or should be, whether or not brutality was routinely administered duly and harshly. Dusting one’s britches was an exception, not the rule. The flogging standard that I observed was to bust a guys butt the first time down, and let me know he could give me more pain so I wouldn’t come back down again. They were trying to beat me into being good so I wouldn’t go back down again – sort of a ‘they got more strap than I got butt’ kind of attitude but hoping for the best.
I look back now a days and I see that Christ was there with me all thru FSB. He loved me even when I didn’t love him and was cussing Him for all my troubles I’d brought upon myself. I didn't see it then as there wasn't anything outside of me that could have hurt me anymore than I was already hurting but now I see the Holy Spirit was there with me every step I took while I was doing my will rather than doing his. I admit I’ve got a little rebel in me. I hope and pray I bring glory to him somehow.
What strikes me most about the emergence of the issue of abuse happening at FSB is such a unique group of survivors have surfaced. How unique are we? Is not such a valuable research opportunity worthy of further study? It is my thinking that the group contains a lot of valuable information to be gained by the juvenile justice academia and behavioral sciences.
I hope the reader grasps that while some guys were traumatized at FSB, other guys were not traumatized. There were good people also working at FSB just like any other place of work, not all were bad people. And some of those bad people were good to some people. We as ex-inmates know, or should know, that this is true of inmates as well as FSB staff, or anyone anywhere. There are always good folks and a few that need helping and healing more so than others.
I come and leave you in peace.
Chas H. “Chuck” Simmons
The Chazzmanian Devil ;-)